Mommy & Baby Yoyo Photoshoot with Family Photographer Ahlam Raffii

 

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In the beginning of this year, In March to be precise, I worked with family photographer Ahlam Raffii to photograph my son, Yousef and I. The photos were amazing, and you can view all of them on Ahlam’s website, here. But the reason I’m writing this post is because Ahlam recently surprised me with these two video edits from our shoot! I just love them! It’s amazing how time goes so fast, Make sure you always enjoy every minute with your loved ones, life is really too short.

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Exclusive Interview: Paul Marks – General Manager of Build-A-Bear Workshop Gulf States

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Paul Marks, a man with over 30 years retailing experience, starting as a management trainee with Marks & Spencer before spending 14 years in International Retail Development & Operations with Toys R Us International Division. After 5 years in the Airport Duty Free Industry he ran his own Retail Consultancy, Retail Management Solutions, advising International Airport Retailers and the Indian Government on Airport Retail Concourse Design and Franchisee and Operator selection.

There then followed a number of consultancy roles in Dubai, where he has been based for the past 18 years, with international brands such as Nike, Timberland, McDonalds, The Emirates Group, Standard Charted Bank and Nakheel’s Retail Division, Retailcorp. This led to Paul’s appointment as Lead Retail Consultant for Dubai Maritime City and Nakheel Northern projects. In his new role as General Manager with Build-A-Bear Workshop Paul will focus on growing the brand throughout the GCC and MENA region while at the same time looking for partnership and investment opportunities that will ensure an attractive proposition for growth.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr.Marks after being invited to visit build-a-bear workshop store in Kuwait to live the experience as a whole; definitely a fun and bonding activity to do with your child. You will read about my visit in a soon-to-follow post, for now, get a glimpse on the experience from the man himself, Mr. Paul Marks.

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Thesidetalk: Where did the idea of building a bear come from? And when?
a: Build-A-Bear workshop has been around for 15years. Our founder, Maxine Clark came up with the idea. She was in retail, with a friend of hers who had ran out of collecting, a product called beanie babies. That’s when Maxine suggested making your own. It was the champagne moment in 1997. This light bulb moment lead to Maxine moving out of corporate retail. She wanted to do something with children & build a system wherein she could engage with the customers. Everybody always wants bear and it’s a fun thing.

Thesidetalk: How important is a toy for a child’s development?
a: It’s a really interesting, I get this question a lot at the moment particularly as we have a lot of children on the ipad using social networks. If we go back to family and friends, what’s the first thing we see in a crib? It’s a teddy bear or it’s a soft toy or a cuddly toy. Within us, we have this innate desire to nurture or to be nurtured. The cuddly toy or the ability to hug or hold something its part of human nature. We are often surprised how early that starts in a child’s development. It’s not the toy itself, it’s the creativity that goes with it/. It’s the game playing, stimulating the children’s imagination. The cuddly toys sparks the creative juices and gets people thinking. That’s the real value of a cuddly toy and any object, be it a doll or a car sparks child’s imagination.

Thesidetalk: Did the rise of the iPad affect the toys industry?
a: That’s a very interesting question and a favourite one. We see so many children on iPads and I think we are past this, at the end of the day we live in a modern world and the iPad is a part of that. I think it does much good as it does damages; there are a lot of educational games and apps on it. It’s kind of replaced the television; when we were kids we would stick to educational videos. I think at the end of the day it’s about the balance in life. Ultimately it’s the parents’ priorities and prerogative to limit the use of it and it’s their duty to manage the content and to encourage children to get outside to play. There’s always a place for children to play with their bears! I have a standard phrase I use in this case, “you can’t hug an iPad”.

Thesidetalk: At this tech-savvy time we live in, how hard is it to still be one of the few making a good old teddy bear?
a: Since you have gone in to our stores, you will see how the process is not just about buying a bear but its more about enjoying the experience. One this I find interesting particularly in conferences is when I hold a bear up and the audience smiles. You pick up a bear and the common and first thing they say is “how cute is that”. You can then go wiggle the arm or screw its face up and you have people giggling and guess what it’s just the bears; it’s one of those things going back to the nurturing aspect, it triggers something in the human mind when they see anything that’s cuddly or cute. Look at YouTube, 90 percent of the million people watch videos of babies, cats and dogs doing things that are cute. I think that’s a part of it and I think there’s always a place for general cuteness and cuddliness. I think there’s a place for both, there isn’t competition between tech-savvy people/technology and cuddly toys.

Thesidetalk: How do you mix the traditional teddy bear with what makes it more appealing for children of today?
a: I think of the things that particularly interesting about Build-A-Bear Workshop is we do not actually sell teddy bears, we sell an experience. One of the greatest satisfactions we often surprised or it never stops surprising is sometimes watching the parent. While they are going through the building process, watching their children enjoy the process. Technology comes in play is through our new media, how people share information. If you look at instagram or any social networking websites, if we put up a picture of a kid building a bear or the bear doing something daft – we get 83 to 90 likes within a minute. This is where technology comes in – playing an important role and is a new vehicle of spreading the word. As I said earlier, it’s not a competition and you don’t have to embrace technology overtime. Louis Vuitton is still going to be Louis Vuitton handbags. You don’t need a microchip in them to tell that you’ve got home; it’s still a beautiful product. Technology is now used to tell a story.

Thesidetalk: Do you think children receive enough learning or value from toys, characters or apps?
a: It’s really a difficult question; I think it’s about content. There’s a lot to be said about educational app. I think there are two parts to it – you always want to stimulate a child whether it’s a Mickey Mouse on the television 20 years or my little pony on an app. This is all part of entertainment that’s about making people giggle or have a bit of fun. On the other hand, the more serious side is educational and again there are probably more apps, then ever were television programs teaching you to count, to play, to discover, to go on adventures. And I think as I said earlier combining the two is the key. Balancing playing around outside, sitting at home quietly telling a story to your bear or learning a new tune or singing a song on an app. I think there’s a place for everything.

Thesidetalk: In you own words; tell us about the build-a-bear experience.
a. As a retailer, it’s all about engaging a customer and creating a relationship. From a child’s point of view, it’s really about the fun. We say, we don’t sell bear – we sell love, hugs and smiles. The child comes in and sees their bear stuffed on the wall. They can put a sound it in, and they can go to the big lovely stuffing machines, press the peddle and go on to stuffing the bear at the same time. They can give it a hug test to check if it’s the right level of hugability. Then, there’s a special moment, where they make special wishes and put the heart in the bear. The children can dress it, personalise it, and accessorise it with sunglasses, shoes & everything. They also get to name the bears and make its birth certificate. This leads to a whole new level of interactive play on our website and soon on our apps. There are actually processes, that we call – choose me, hear me, stuff me, fluff me, dress me, name me and finally take me home. Our customers don’t just leave the store and we don’t call it checking out but we call it the ‘take me home’. The bear gets popped into its own distinctive condo a little house and take it home. There’s a lot to it, from the minute you enter our stores. Our bear builders spend over 30mins with each customers, it’s a real argument.

Thesidetalk: What’s next?
a. One of the things that are always great fun is that although we are called Build-A-Bear Workshop we have very many furry friends and we found that in the Middle East and that four legged animals are very popular and we are delighted that we have six very successful stores and we’ll have 10 by the end of the year. Dubai Mall is the top international store amongst 86 franchises. Kuwait is always up there which means it resonates with the local population as much as expats. And we hope between now and 10 stores and in maybe five years we should be a AED50 Million business with over 15 stores. We are going to get involved in other countries which are great fun. The future looks bright and most of all it’s fun.

The Posh Fairy Styles Isabel Marant Pour H&M

I was very lucky to be the only one in Kuwait who got their hands on the collaborated Isabel Marant pour H&M collection, to use at a photoshoot of my creation for The City Magazine, November Issue 2013. The photos are finally out and I’m very excited to share.

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For TheCity Magazine – Nov 2013: STATUS SYMBOL

CREATIVE DIRECTOR | STYLIST
Joumana Soufi – Posh Fairy

PHOTOGRAPHER
Jalil Marvin

MODELS / SOCIAL FIGURES
– Stylist/Creative Director: Xiena Al Musallam @Kuzmoz
– Illustrator: Mohammed Al Mohanna @Malmhna
– Interior Designer: Deema Decaux @Deemadecaux
– Blogger/Fashion Designer: Hala Abu Al Hasan @Dudette_7D
– Fashion Designer: Hannah Dulaimi @Stylenscones
– Makeup Artist: Mona Dulaimi @Monadbeauty
– Fashion Designer: Abdullah Al Khudhair @Alkudhair
– Social Media Personality: Dana Al Tuwairsh @Daneeda_t
– Architecht: Fatima Al Momen @Falmomen
– Blogger/Entrepreneur: Mohammed Al Rasheed @Fried_Junk
– Actress: Laila Abdullah @Lailaabdullah

WARDROBE
Isabel Marant Pour H&M

ACCESSORIES
Isabel Marant Pour H&M

HAIR
Aziza ‘Zizi’ Skaff – Blush Hair & Beauty Center

MAKEUP
Shaikha Al Shayaa & Sabeeka Al Fuzai – Makeup Room

AUGMENTED REALITY
Khayal Application by Snipp

Join RunQ8: Make a Difference in Children’s Rehabilitative Care in Kuwait

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Registrations are now open for RunQ8, the annual 10 kilometer charity race to be held Saturday, November 2 at 9 am, starting and ending at Marina Crescent on the Gulf Road. RunQ8 2013 is organized by the Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute (FSRI) and Agility, supporting health initiatives and raising health awareness. They encourage socially responsible engagement in our community to improve preventative healthcare, standards for treatment as well as equal access to medical care. Previously, RunQ8 successfully supported Eye Health and Road and Traffic Safety community-wide projects in Kuwait.

In its third year, RunQ8 is supporting Children’s Rehabilitation through the new FSRI Children’s Rehabilitation Clinic. Caring for a child with a physical and/or cognitive disability has significant emotional, physical and financial effects on the child and the family. Despite parents’ best intentions, they often are unable to provide the care needed to improve their child’s quality of life, reduce his/her physical pain and provide for rehabilitation. The heartbreaking reality is that the children who are the most vulnerable require the most extensive, complex and prolonged rehabilitative care, which is financially impossible for many families. RunQ8 believes that no child should be left behind due to lack of financial support or quality medical care. With FSRI’s pediatric program, they strive to meet the needs of families without resources. This year they will be raising funds through RunQ8 to ensure that FSRI can continue to provide free comprehensive rehabilitative care to those children in the greatest need who have limited resources.

Last year’s runners’ registration fees are being utilized to provide one year of comprehensive care currently to a child who has sustained severe injuries as a result of a traffic accident. Without your contributions last year, this child would have been unable to access the care needed. You are already making a difference! Please join the third RunQ8 race this year and help them help these children.

Not a runner? No problem! Walk, bike or just stroll through to the finish line. Remember, it’s not just about the race; it’s about supporting the cause. To register, please visit our website: www.runq8.org

Isabel Marant Pour H&M: See All The Pictures

The images of the Isabel Marant for H&M collection have finally arrived. Every single piece of it; from womenswear and menswear to teen and accessories, the collection does not disappoint. An embellished trophy, leather cropped trousers, a loose peasant top with printed jeans; and mannish outerwear with white trousers and slouchy boots with fringed detailing. Start making your wishlist now, before the collection lands in stores on November 14.

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Visiting CenterPoint @TheAvenues

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Couple of weeks ago, I was invited by CenterPoint Group on a tour inside their newly opened store at The Avenues. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the diversity of brands available at CenterPoint stores, but this one went far beyond what we know a CenterPoint store would be, being the 2nd biggest in the region, and definitely the biggest in Kuwait, The options are endless.

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the furniture section, Home Center, has a big number of furniture displays, and I found it to be very organized and easy to browse. Bedrooms, Living Rooms, Dining Rooms, Toilet Ware, Kitchen Ware, Lighting, Home accessories, Carpets, you name it, they have it. In multiples!

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The beauty department carries the same collection of brands that you find at all CenterPoint Stores.

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One thing that caught my attention, and which I did not notice before for some reason, is there bags section, they carry original brands such as Guess & Paris Hilton, and more.

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The advantage of shopping in such a huge store, that everything you’re used to is bigger in size! The brands are separated in a very organized way, and are arranged in individual sections, for men, women, and kids.

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And not to forget the charity aspect, Being Human clothing brand, owned by Indian actor Salman Khan, with royalties that support education and healthcare of those less fortunate.

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The kids department is tremendous! Huuuge! Way bigger than all I’ve seen at a CenterPoint store before! Great for me!

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And finally, the luggage and shoes sections, very neat.

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Thank you CenterPoint for the tour. Loved the store, and I went back and got a baby stroller & a glass center table that I’m absolutely in love with. I’m definitely gonna be passing by whenever I hit The Avenues. CenterPoint is located at the Basement, below The Mall Area and Soku (any elevator or escalator within these 2 phases will take you to CenterPoint)! Yup, that’s how big the store is!

Blank Smart Entertainment

Blank Camp Ad 2013-03-1

Blank Smart Entertainment Company, a leader in treasure hunts and mind games is going to have their annual Camp for 2013.

The camp will take place at Infunity at 360 mall – level 3, from June 23rd to July 11th, from 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM, featuring activities such as:

– Treasure Hunt
– Arts & Crafts
– Life Skills
– Sports

All classes are taught by qualified teachers, each class will have a teacher assistant and two volunteers. Thursdays are special fun days, where all the kids will play treasure hunt and do fun activities all day long.

For more details and information call them at 55525265

Vanessa Paradis is the face of Conscious at H&M Spring 2013

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French actress and singer, Vanessa Paradis, is the face of Conscious at H&M this spring, wearing pieces in the campaign that are both on-trend and also more-sustainable. It is all part of H&M’s ongoing commitment to a more sustainable fashion future, showing that the best fashion can be made from Conscious materials, such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Tencel.

The full women’s collection will be available in H&M stores worldwide as well as online from March 25, alongside Conscious collections for Men – blazers, chinos, Ikat print shirts and shorts – as well as fun prints for kids and babies.

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Harvey Nichols: The Inside Out

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What’s better than getting a sneak peek to one of the hottest places in town?! Getting that in style! Got an invite to check out Harvey Nichols favorite things, and how did I get there? A ride in the cutest London Taxi they sent to pick me up early early in the morning!

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Arrived to meet their super friendly team, and see the corner they set up of all their favorite picks from the store. Gorgeousness!

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With their wonderful garments, and the 2 stories store amazing brands, what makes me happy the most? Accessories! I’m such a sucker for statement accessories, it’s almost an addiction!

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This layered neck cuff would look so good with a tribal print top or maxi dress!

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In love!

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Such a cute clutch by Marni

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After we indulged in the beauty of their picks, it was time to start the private tour, Nat and Adel from Harvey’s marketing team were nice enough to show us around and patient enough to answer ALL our questions!

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During the tour, I took pictures of my own favorite stuff, so that’s mostly what you’ll be looking at for the next 5 minutes, maybe 10? 15?

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Diamonds, shoes are the modern girl’s best friend! Really, they never bail on you, no matter how your size changes, if you gain some extra pounds or grow older, they’ll always be there for you, sitting their in the store, on the shelf, looking at you innocently, waiting for a new loving home!

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Forgot the brand of this shoes, but it’s SUCH a hottie! I fell in love over heels!

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Cool sneakers

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One of the brands I was happy to find is LAMP (Love. Angel. Music. Baby) by Gwen Stefani, the lead vocalist for the rock and ska band No Doubt, and to me personally, a style icon.

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Those Church’s loafers would scream out loud with a pair of jeans and a plain white shirt

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This upcoming part of the tour is interesting! for women who seek privacy while shopping for a party gown, they have a private section! Complete with their picks of designer gowns to serve all tastes.

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Almost heaven!

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More interesting stuff? Their Personal Shopping section! All with 7 different suites and a dedicated team of personal shoppers/stylists to help you with all your needs through your shopping.

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Back to the store

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And more statement

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I need this in my life!

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Cool sweaters

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Local Tees, a Kuwaiti local brand, are selling some exclusive designs for Harvey Nichols! Way to go guys!

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What’s an outfit without the right bag? Harvey Nich’s know better, they carry a whole lot of designer bags of the season’s latest

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So happy to finally see Shourouk officially introduced in town

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They also carry multiple brands for sunnies

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Next stop, beauty wonder land, I felt like a kid in a candy store! Wanted to try EVERYTHING! Will be going back for that!

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Of course, men also have a share! a huge section for formal wear, sports wear, casuals, gadget accessories, leather goodies, for a modern man who likes to roll in style.

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Last but not least, kids can be stylish too! Cutest little everything! So darn cute!

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I could eat this for dessert! I die!

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Oh! Surprise surprise! Harvey Nichols gift cards are now available *hint* 🙄

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One last thing, Harvey Nichols restaurant, Veranda, is due to launch soon! Adel took us on an exclusive tour just for us to see for now! So I can’t share any more, but the word is, AMAZING! Gonna be the new it place in town hands down, can’t wait!

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Time to go home! Thank you Nat and Adel for your great hospitality, was such an informative and interesting tour! Can’t wait to meet again! You guys rock!

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Diet Care: Let’s Lunchbox!

Take the first step to a healthier future for your child:

1. Pack your child’s lunchbox from home instead of making them have food from school.
2. Ditch the juice box, switch to the milk box.
3. Always make sure you child has breakfast at home before they go to school.

For Diet Care’s health tips and updates, follow them on Instagram @thedietcare.